The Location of Dilmun, Part 2

See Part 1 for introduction.

Pillar 2: The fact Utnapishtim, the hero of the Assyro-Babylonian flood story, is said to live “at the mouth of the rivers” in the Epic of Gilgamesh and “in an overseas country, in the land Dilmun, where the sun rises” in a Sumerian flood story means Dilmun should be associated with “the mouth of the rivers”, that is, the region of Qurna.

Response: This idea is most thoroughly discussed by Albright (back in 1919), in an article which Mattfeld curiously cites. Albright points out Gilgamesh’s journey is ridiculous if one assumes the “mouth of the rivers” is at the Persian gulf, which would make Gilgamesh’s journey through mountains nonsensical. Rather, the “mouth of the rivers” is the hypothetical ‘source of all rivers‘ in the far North, in Urartu, where the waters of the underground apsu rise into open air (search ‘apsu’ in Albright’s article) and around the place Utnapishtim happened to land (Mount Nimush, east of Assyria).

Pillar 3: The fact Sargon II describes Uperi, King of Dilmun, as living a mere 30 beru (anywhere between 72 and 160 miles) in the midst of the Sea shows Dilmun was under 160 miles from the emptying of the Euphrates into the marshes or the Persian Gulf. As Failaka remained uninhabited during the Iron Age, this shows Dilmun must have been in the marshes of Iraq.

Response: As the beru varied so widely in distance on land, it seems it would vary an even greater amount on water. A constant Northwest wind blows into the Persian Gulf, rendering sailing from the Euphrates to Bahrain relatively easy, especially in October and November, when such sailing trips occurred. As Albright himself says in his 1919 article, “it would be a very slow bark that could not make five miles an hour or ten miles a beru”. Thus, especially with the aid of sails, a trip from the mouth of the Euphrates to Bahrain could easily take two and a half days, even without the aid of Phoenician shipbuilders Sargon may have had.

Pillar 4: There is no archaeological evidence to place the Dilmun of the 3rd and 4th millennia BC in Saudi Arabia.

Response: While evidence of settlement in Saudi Arabia is, indeed, sparse throughout the 4th millennium BC (see p. 31) in this case, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, as hardly all of the Eastern Arabian sites of the 5th-3rd millennia BC have been surveyed, much less excavated. Besides, evidence of Uruk-period settlement was found at Umm ar-Ramadh and Umm an-Nussi (both in the Saudi interior) and, possibly, at Ras Abaruq on the W. coast of Qatar. The most potentially profitable site for exploration of 3rd-4th(?)-5th millennium E. Saudi Arabian civilization is the tell in the center of Tarut Island, which is currently covered over by modern buildings. The tell has yielded an Ubaid sherd and a large number of Early Dynastic I-II ceramics.

Potential Pillar 1: This pillar is not actually used by Mattfeld on, but it is used as an argument for placing Dilmun on the Arabian mainland by a certain early twentieth century author. This pillar states that in a certain text of the reign of Sargon II, the border of Bit-Yakin, a powerful tribe of Sealand, stretched to Dilmun.

Potential Response: If one looks at the text in context, one can easily see Sargon II is describing his own territory, not that of Bit-Yakin.

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

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